The title races in Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru and Honduras concluded this weekend with several former champions returning to the top of the podiums. As ever, FIFA.com is on hand to review the dramatic denouements in the respective championships.
Argentinian Apertura: Estudiantes make the grade
There was no shortage of excitement in Argentina as the season’s final matchday unfolded. Midway through the second half of the key games, second-placed Velez Sarsfield were winning 2-0 at Racing, while leaders Estudiantes were being held by Arsenal. Had things stayed that way, a play-off would have been required to settle the destination of the Apertura. However, El Pincha were not to be denied, as two late goals rendered Velez’s win academic and handed them their fifth league crown.
Big game: It took Estudiantes 71 minutes to finally breach Arsenal’s defence, and the man to do it was the Uruguayan Rodrigo Lopez, who moments earlier had come on for Pincha idol Juan Sebastian Veron. A nervy few minutes ensued, and it was only when RoRo grabbed his and Estudiantes’ second four minutes from time that the party could really begin.
Headline-grabber: Velez fans will be wondering how the title eluded them after such a splendid campaign. Not only did they amass an impressive tally of 42 points, they also boasted the most potent attack (33 goals) and the Apertura’s top two scorers in the Uruguayan Santiago Silva (12) and strike partner Jose Maria Martinez (11).
Ecuadorian championship: Tenth crown for Liga
Liga de Quito reaffirmed their status as one of Ecuador’s top sides after securing their tenth national championship this weekend. Despite going down 1-0 to Emelec in the second leg of the championship final, Edgardo Bauza’s side claimed their first league crown since 2007 by virtue of their 2-0 first-leg win. Sweeter still for La Liga was the fact that the triumph ended city rivals Deportivo’s hopes of making it three league titles in a row.
Big game: With a two-goal lead from the first leg, Liga de Quito were in confident mood heading to Emelec on Sunday. However, a David Quiroz strike 16 minutes into the second half left the visitors with no room for error. In the end though, their experience told as they nullified the considerable threat of Jaime Ayovi (tournament top scorer with 23 goals) to hold out for the aggregate win.
Headline-grabber: Despite going down 3-1 to Barcelona in Guayaquil in the return leg of their match for third-place, Deportivo Quito pipped their opponents to the country’s third and final berth in the 2011 Copa Libertadores on the away-goals rule, having won the home leg 2-0.
Venezuelan Apertura: Tachira, but only just
A single goal was all that separated the champions from runners-up when the dust settled on the Apertura championship this weekend. Celebrating were Deportivo Tachira (36 points, +20 goal difference), who drew 0-0 with Deportivo Petare to finish level on points with Real Esppor (36, +19). Despite winning 2-0 against Yaracuyanos, the unlucky Merengues finished one goal shy of forcing a play-off. For the champions, meanwhile, victory not only assured them a berth in the group stages of the 2011 Copa Libertadores, but also the right to take on the next Clausura champions for the combined league title next year.
Big game: With their direct rivals being held and their side two goals up midway through the first half, fans of Real Esppor were entitled to dream of glory. Yet just when it seemed their heroes would finish the job off, nerves crept in and they ended their campaign with nothing.
Headline-grabber: Reigning Apertura and Clausura champions Caracas put three unanswered goals past Zamora to finish third at the expense of Deportivo Petare, who were still in the running for the championship heading into the final day.
In the second leg of the final in Peru’s Primera Division, San Martin defeated Leon de Huanuco 2-1 (3-2 on aggregate) to wrap up the third league title of their short history. On the score sheet for El Albo, who were only founded in 2004, were the Peruvian Pedro Garcia and Argentinian Pablo Vitti. The Colombian Luis Perea gave Huanuco hope when he converted from the spot, but it was not to be, and the team’s quest to become the first club from the interior to claim a national title must wait at least another year.
Finally to the Honduran Apertura, where Real Espana took the trophy in dramatic style thanks to an 2-1 extra-time win over Olimpia (3-2 on aggregate) in the second leg of the championship final. The Brazilian Douglas Caetano grabbed the decisive goal on 111 minutes after strikes by Ramiro Bruschi (Olimpia) and Christian Martinez had forced extra time. The victory gave Los Aurinegros their first national title since 2007 and tenth overall.